Making Something From Nothing: Kwame Ferreira Of Impossible & Bond Touch On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
The company is part of your life. It is not your life. It’s a construct that exists to enrich your life and the life of others. When it can no longer do so, create another company.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kwame Ferreira, CEO & Founder of Bond Touch.
Kwame Ferreira is a serial impact entrepreneur who is leading Impossible, best known for creating Planet centric design. He is the CEO and Founder of the Impossible company Bond Touch, the pioneer in emotional wearables with a mission to touch hearts and enrich relationships. Kwame also co-founded Wiresglasses, combating waste in the eyewear industry, helped grow Fairphone, the world’s first ethical phone, and chairs Nikabot, another Impossible company, creating healthier happier teams.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Angola. My parents were working for the ministry of culture, filming and documenting tribes across Angola. From there I moved to Brazil and then Portugal. I was a curious kid, growing up in nature until I was 17. I worked in my family’s construction firm, which gave me the pragmatism needed to become an entrepreneur.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed, by William Gibson. It opened my eyes to the fact that not only do we have time zones but whole areas of the planet living in totally different epochs. It’s a quote that gave me perspective. I feel like I spend my life moving between different futures. It’s important we share our idea of the future with as many people as possible so we all work towards the same goal.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Daniel J. Boorstin’s — The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself was a book that opened my eyes to the vast landscape of knowledge we build upon in order to discover new things. The greatest obstacle to discovery, Boorstin wrote, is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge. We tend to curb our curiosity at an early age. His writings kept me curious.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
- Make small bets and see how the market behaves. This is the best advice I was given. Bet small, lose small. If you will, scale.
- People will tell you with words that they love your idea but they will tell you with their wallets that they love your product. Or not.
- Persevere. Build resilience in your daily life by modeling your behavior on people who have survived.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Google. These days there are no excuses. If it has been created, great, someone has braved the market. What have they learned? How can you help solve the problem better?
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
- I always start by feeling the problem. Describing it to my friends with very simple language as well as a potential solution. What I’m really doing is asking myself whether I am alone in this feeling. Do others feel what I feel? I always start with emotions and really try not to get too brainy.
After I’m convinced that my initial pitch has traction, I ask myself how will I know that the solution I propose is right? Do I have a framework to measure success? Is it revenue? Is it retention? Is it team growth? Is it cleaner oceans? Can I easily measure it? The answer lies in a finite number of indicators. Ensure they are clear. Measurable. Launching a product is so intense and time-consuming that you need to focus on what matters and only what matters.
You are not committed to a solution, you are committing to a problem. Committing to a problem is for the long haul. You may be launching several products in this problem space. Think 10 years. In ten years’ time will you be solving the same problem? The answer to this question determines how mission-driven you are. Mission is problem-connected, not outcome-based.
2. Pick your team. Ensure they are not like you. You can’t all play in the same position. Make sure they are a culture fit before they are a skill fit. Write them love letters as often as possible.
3. Get coaching as to how to manage people. Creating and launching products is all about people. You are not launching a product, you are launching a little vehicle that has all your team’s hopes and ambitions.
4. Patience. Breathe. Don’t try to disconnect. That’s not realistic. Instead try and connect with people outside your space. Learn how to meditate. It helps.
5. Set short-term goals aligned to long-term objectives. Do so with your team, as a team. Align everyone on a weekly basis. Celebrate when you reach your goals.
We are all made up of cognitive biases. Learn to discount these from your decision- making process. The best way to manage biases is by getting advice from those who have done it before. Take serious feedback seriously.
Try, fail, measure & learn. Try again.
Repeat 9 until point number 2 is positive.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- A company is made of people. It all starts and ends with people. Get coaching as to how to manage people.
- Keep things as small for as long as you can. Do more with less.
- Trust your advisors. They’ve done it before. Model your behavior after them.
- The culture you create will be modeled after your behavior, not your words. Lead by example. For more read Mimetic Desire.
- The company is part of your life. It is not your life. It’s a construct that exists to enrich your life and the life of others. When it can no longer do so, create another company.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Pitch it to friends in a social setting, like a bar, or a concert. A noisy place that will make you simplify your pitch. It’s important you are able to convince friends and family before moving on to the market.
Moving on to the market, if it’s physical, I would not create the product but rather a model you can use in a photoshoot to exemplify its value. I would create a website, a video and lots of photos before I invest too much into the product. Put it up on Shopify (if it’s a physical product) and see if you get any sales. If it’s b2b, get a customer to show interest. If it’s a service, look at how you can create the minimum loveable product.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Go at it on your own in the beginning. You don’t have resources and that is a good thing, it forces you to focus. Consultants cost money and time. You don’t have either. Instead of consultants, get advisors, and mentors. They will impart their knowledge in a pay-it-forward model, i.e. for free, something you will then copy once you have gained experience and have success under your belt.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Always bootstrap. VC capital is great when you need to scale. Once you have product-market fit. In the beginning you are looking for market fit. You can do so without VCs.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The first thing is sharing knowledge. I spend a lot of time passing on what I have learned to others. This is how I got here and the best way to make the world a better place.
The second thing is measuring impact. Ensuring my teams are working with independent frameworks, like BCorp for example, that allow us to assess progress in key metrics: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Tech for Biodiversity. A movement of tech people who work on solutions that have a net positive impact in increasing biodiversity.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would like to have breakfast with Ridley Scott. He directed so many of my favorite movies I feel like the future I imagine is the future he has imagined. I wonder if he is a breakfast man though.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Kwame Ferreira Of Impossible & Bond Touch On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.